East Michigan vegetable update – Sept. 6, 2017

Warm-season crops are wrapping up and late-season producers are still getting decent prices.

This is my last weekly report for the season. Though, I will have one more report out soon about finishing up pumpkins. If I have failed to make an appearance on your farm yet this summer, give me an update! How did it go? What have been the prevailing issues for you this year? Send along good pictures and stories to phill406@msu.edu.


Some hail damage was reported in Saginaw. Other areas in our region had light rain spread across multiple days. The degree day accumulations really slowed down and we’re 200 units behind our 5-year average all of a sudden. Farm marketers have reported picking gaps in tomatoes and sweet corn now with the cooler temperatures.

Here are degree day (base 50 F since March 1), rainfall (inches since April 1) accumulations, and soil temperature ranges (Fahrenheit over the last week) to date from Michigan State University Enviro-weather stations in the region.

GDD and rainfall accumulations as of Sept. 6, 2017


Degree Days (+ added from Aug 9)

Degree Days 5-year average

Rainfall (+ added from Aug 9)

Rainfall 5-year average


2081 (+ 136)


14.78 (+ 1.22)



2086 (+ 152)


9.34 (+ 0.00)



2329 (+ 168)


18.48 (+ 1.2)



2157 (+ 151)


16.96 (+ 1.88)



2120 (+ 156)


20.73 (+ 0.27)



2029 (+ 119)


15.94 (+ 2.32)



2004 (+ 145)


23.99 (+ 0.57)



2148 (+ 155)


15.84 (+ 0.22)



2273 (+ 168)


16.13 (+ 0.78)



1986 (+ 142)


15.54 (+ 1.04)



In sweet corn, western bean cutworm has been a substantial ear-boring pest in southeast Michigan. Note, this worm is larger than European corn borer, as it feeds outside the ear for longer, and gets larger before it burrows into the ear. Corn earworm catches have remained light.

Winter squash and pumpkins are going to market. I suggest holding back on putting under-colored pumpkins out on the table. Let them color up in a barn before marketing them. Powdery mildew pressure has been very high. It is important to maintain even coloring and handle-quality by treating this disease.

Watermelon and cantaloupes are winding down. The latest plantings I saw were just setting their first fruit last week. Let’s hope our upcoming fall temperatures ripen them up.

Pickling cucumber harvest continues. Some processors predict wrapping up by Sept. 15.

Pepper harvest continues. Bells are starting to redden. I have begun to see about three brown marmorated stink bugs per week in my traps in Saginaw. Though, I have not confirmed any feeding damage.

Brussels sprouts are being topped now. I had originally written about Brussels sprouts being topped in the first week of August. After reviewing some other literature, and speaking with other growers, I rescind that comment. In Michigan, this crop does best if topped after the 1st of September, even as late as the first week of October. The sprouts lowest to the ground are often larger, and of poorer quality at harvest time because they are the oldest on the stalk. Topping in August is okay, but you end up with a shorter stalk occupied with more unevenly-sized sprouts on the bottom. Letting them grow taller as the days cool through August and early September will simply increase stalk length and more sprouts above the over-sized lower ones.

Garlic should be planted 6 weeks before the top layer of soil freezes, and optionally mulched sometime before January. You don’t want any emergence before winter, and so you also don’t want to over-fertilize at planting. Do not exceed 20 lbs/ac of N at planting.

I need your feedback - hydroponics

Last year, Michigan State University Extension performed a statewide needs-assessment. One of the things that rose to the top was the need for education related to food production in “non-traditional environments.” There has been an explosion of hydroponic supply stores in Michigan, and there are perhaps more access points to advanced horticultural supplies than ever before. It seems a waste for such large retail spaces to be dedicated to one crop. So, are vegetable growers using them? Is it filling a niche for smaller growers? If so, what has your experience been?

In the “why or why not” section of the survey, I would like to hear from you. Is the price point too high? Is the equipment too specific to the crop-that-shall-not-be-named? Do you prefer ordering your supplies for delivery, versus shopping at a brick and mortar store?

In my brief experience visiting two stores in my region I found the nutrient and compost supplies over-branded, over-priced and under-volume. It’s a real Wild West of products. Bottled and bagged products were packaged for very small-scale production of just a few high-value plants. However, lighting, irrigation, chemical injection, transplant trays/substrates, staking/trellising, and climate control supplies seemed adequate with a decent price point. There were more OMRI-certified organic products in one place than I have ever seen. Perhaps not too surprisingly for hydroponics suppliers, I found a lack of flat drip tapes, linear plastic for laying field beds and low tunnels, and no field-scale planting/cultivating/harvest aides or post-harvest packaging supplies. Also, no full-on greenhouse kits on hand, although one store worked with a greenhouse kit supplier for customers.

Upcoming events

The Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day is scheduled for Sept. 26 at the MSU Horticulture Farm. For more information and registration, see “Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day.

Hotels are filling up for the Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetable EXPO, Dec. 5-7 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The combination of grower-focused, research-backed presentations and an amazing exhibit hall make it a can’t-miss event.

Please contact me at phill406@msu.edu or 616-901-7513 to grab any suspected disease samples from your farm, or send the diseased plant parts to MSU Diagnostic Services.

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